Custom Programs for Groups
& Community Building
Your interest in a Custom Program with VISIONS indicates a commitment to the profound learning that happens when groups of people undertake meaningful projects in another culture.
VISIONS has worked in the Dominican Republic for three decades. We have seen that these long-term relationships are the foundation for creating mutual understanding and real change.
We invite you to be an extension of the relationships that we have forged, to have fun and make a difference!
“I had a blast in the DR! I believe that community service builds character. I would do this all again in a heartbeat. Throughout this program I learned values that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I also learned not to take anything for granted.”
Custom Programs contain elements of a VISIONS summer program along with ingredients tailored to meet the goals of your group
When the objectives of the program are met, participants will:
- Increase their knowledge of the culture, history and society of the host community
- Gain the community living skills required to thrive as a group
- Develop the hard skills required on a worksite, including tool use
- Develop a respect for diversity, in the broadest sense
- Increase confidence as contributing members of society
- Increase positive attitudes towards interacting, learning and exploring across cultures
- Meaningful Service Work: Choose from multiple projects each day
- Cultural Exchange: Live and work as part of the community
- Adventurous Exploration: See some of the area’s best sights
- Reflection & Community Building: Group meetings to reflect on the experience
SERVICE & IMMERSION
The work involves ambitious projects that may be a combination of construction work and social service. Projects are done with community members and participants get to choose from two or three different worksites each day. In one to two weeks, we are often able to complete the majority of a small home or school classroom. If there are enough participants, we can also help instruct English and other activities in school.
After work ends around 2 pm, the rest of the day includes cultural exchanges, recreation and other activities anchored in the community. We typically set aside one or two full-day activities or excursions for every five work days. Your group will experience the “must-see” sights along with activities that come from long-standing relationships in the community.
In addition to the spontaneous and ongoing community building we do with our local hosts, we meet as a group a few evenings a week in order to reflect on the volunteer and cultural experiences, and to listen to what others have to share.
“My VISIONS trip to the Dominican Republic was the most life-changing experience of my life. Living in the local community immersed us in a culture where family is the number one priority. By the end of the trip I feel like our group truly replicated this concept.”
Dominicans’ warmth and resilience have charmed VISIONS participants since 1991. You’ll feel it from the day you first arrive.
Making Meaningful Connections
Our home is in the quaint, middle-class neighborhood of Cotui known as Quitasueño. Days are characterized by the companionship of Dominican friends, project partners and children. Many afternoons end with a game of dominoes or vitilla, the precursor to baseball that local kids play with a broomstick and plastic bottle cap. We experience the culture beyond our host neighborhood as well, visiting marketplaces to buy fruits and vegetables, and working with Dominicans who do not speak English—the perfect conditions for sharpening your Spanish skills. And when words fail us, our strong basis of mutual respect and deep friendship in the community provides a bridge across the language barrier.
“I wanted you to know that things could not have been better with the trip. VISIONS leaders were attentive, energetic, intuitive, and kindly firm, just as I would have hoped. We worked well as a team and the students rose to the challenges facing them.”
WORK HARD, PLAY HARD
Our time will be service-focused, and in the cross-cultural context of working and spending time with our Dominican friends. Our after-work activities will be a blend of cultural immersion and adventure. The following gives an overview of a typical 8-day program. Custom Programs may be as long as two months or more.
- Flight arrival to Santiago or Santo Domingo Domingo met by VISIONS staff
- Approx. 2-hour drive to our homebase
- Settle in / unpack / orientation
- Bienvenida Welcome Dinner!
Days Two – Six
- Breakfasts at homebase
- Rotating worksites and homebase crews
- End work ~ 2 pm
- Afternoon activities*
- Dinners at homebase
- Evening activities*
- Depart homebase for Juan Dolio small beach town for a full-day beach excursion, dinner out and night in a quaint travel hotel
- Travel to departure airport & hasta lluego!
Accommodations: We live together in a rented house in a close-knit neighborhood. Accommodations are basic, but clean and comfortable. There are bathrooms and showers, running water, and an outdoor patio for gathering. A full packing list is provided before the program.
Food: Meals and snacks are varied and healthy. Members of the group take turns preparing breakfasts and lunches, and a local cook prepares our dinners. Vegetarian options are available and participants with special food requirements provide that information before the program begins.
*AFTERNOON & EVENING ACTIVITIES
- “Day stay” with a local family (done in pairs)
- Beach excursion & overnight at Juan Dolio beach
- Neighborhood scavenger hunt
- Cooking and chocolate-making workshops
- Dominoes league with neighbors
- Basketball & baseball games with local kids
- Tour a gold mine
- Explore gaucaras caves
- Merengue & salsa lessons
- Swim & boat at one of the Caribbean’s largest freshwater lakes, Presa de Hatillo
- Tour the large dam at Hatillo
- Dinner guests and presentations
(Santos Ramos pictured above from when he visited the VISIONS home office in Montana)
In many ways, the Ramos family is like most Dominican families—warm and outgoing, loving, hard-working and humorous. In other ways, though, they stand alone. They are legendary for their integrity and selfless service in their community and as part of VISIONS. The Ramos family has been our family in the Dominican Republic since we began working there in 1991. They have embraced, guided and advised us, providing loving wisdom and active support.
Santos and Lidia Ramos are longstanding members and past presidents of Club de Leones (Lions Club). Santos owns a small colmado, or corner store, in the neighborhood where the Ramoses make their home and where VISIONS teens have their homebase. Every summer, Santos leaves his shop in the care of a neighbor and joins VISIONS to supervise work projects, and to create and nurture ever-stronger ties between our host community and us. Santos is a wise, discerning and eminently respected elder.
Lidia served as the principal at Escuela Melvin Jones, a school built by VISIONS and the Lions Club in the ’90s, which serves more than 800 school children every year. She, too, is an active community volunteer and coordinator for philanthropic and service projects in poor batey communities. Lidia offers love and affection to VISIONS teens who are living far from home.
Their son, Alberto, has also been a part of VISIONS since, as a teen, he worked with our kids. He then served as director of the VISIONS Dominican Republic program for more than 15 years and was beloved by participants. Like his parents, he holds a profound belief in the power of VISIONS to positively affect the communities and our participants. He and his wife Kenia (our former dinner cook) have three fantastic kids who are carrying on the tradition of being part of our programs every year.
Dominican Republic Blog Posts
Check it out:
VISIONS Featured In The New York Times!